What do Indiana students need to know? State plans sweeping reduction of standards

A person holds a pen in her right hand while seated at a desk and puts her head in her left hand.
Indiana will develop new academic standards by June 2023, with a revamped assessment by the 2025-26 school year. (Willie B. Thomas / Getty Images)

What’s most important for Indiana students to know? 

That’s what the Indiana Department of Education will be evaluating for the next seven months as it seeks to reduce the number of standards that the state’s K-12 students are required to learn. 

The goal is to streamline the content that teachers must cover in an academic year, and thus ensure students have all the essential skills they need for the next grade level, according to a presentation from department officials to the State Board of Education Wednesday. 

The number of current standards often requires teachers to leave some out, proponents have argued, leaving students lacking critical knowledge. 

“This is what everyone talks about. ‘I have so much to do that I can’t ever get it all accomplished,’” board member Byron Ernest said of Hoosier teachers. 

The department is undertaking the process as a result of House Enrolled Act 1251, an omnibus bill enacted during the 2022 legislative session that requires it to reduce standards. It’s supposed to seek input from businesses, industries, and postsecondary institutions about what characteristics students need to succeed in order to help inform the new standards. 

Department committees will work first to identify 25% of the existing standards that can be cut, according to the presentation. Then, they’ll identify one-third of the remaining standards that will be designated as essential, critical, or foundational, according to Secretary of Education Katie Jenner. 

But some board members expressed concern that teachers will still be held responsible for teaching the 75% of the original standards that remain, rather than only the essential ones. 

“I don’t think we help our teachers to have two buckets still that we’re held to,”  Ernest said. “I think there ought to be just one set.” 

Other board members asked whether some standards could be incorporated into students’ elective and career and technical education classes, or whether the state should consider implementing a competency-based model.

The department will bring all the new list of standards to the board by June 2023, with an anticipated launch in the 2023-24 school year, and a revamped assessment by 2025-26. 

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

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